There was a time when someone asked me how long I had felt depressed, I would answer, “I have never known a time when I was not depressed.” That depression came from a few sources. One was fear and the other was an inability to deal with my feelings. Feelings are one of those things that have certain requirements that come with them, but if you do not know what those requirements are, you fail. I know a lot of people who get negative feelings of some sort respond to those feelings by taking a drink. I was one of those people. I knew that when I felt badly I could cover up those feelings by having a drink, or two, or three.
There is a problem to actively avoiding feelings, they are cumulative. That is, each feeling that is covered up remains with you even if submerged. They continue to accumulate waiting to be dealt with and released. In my case more feelings meant more alcohol or pills. And every time a new and negative feeling arose I covered it up with a drink. I did not know how to honestly deal with my feelings.
One of the feelings I had that bothered me was a simmering anger. There was a lot that had happened to me in my childhood and as a young adult that made me feel resentful and angry. But my inability to deal with those issues in an honest and straightforward manner made me feel worse and worse. It also made me dishonest. Whenever someone offered to help I rejected the help because I was too ashamed with what I was feeling to express it and rid myself of it. One of the things I feared the most, losing friends and family, happened anyway. My own daughters felt rightfully estranged from me. I needed a solution but I was clueless as to what it could be.
One day someone suggested I had a problem with alcohol. My response was that I could control my drinking. I could stop whenever I wanted. Of course that was all part of the big lie I told myself so that I believed I had some sort of control of myself. The truth was, I was totally not in control of my life. I did not have a clue of how to be happy with myself. Hell, I hated myself and told myself such regularly. I resented my mother, my sister, and a whole host of other people. What I failed to realize was all that resentment was simply my seeing myself and hating what I saw.
I was taken to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, still not believing I had a problem with alcohol. I heard this promise in one of those meetings that my life would change more dramatically for the good than I could either imagine or hope for. Of course I did not believe all those good things would happen to me but since I did not have any ideas of my own I decided to stick around and see if things could get better.
One of the first things that happened to me was I gained friends, lots of them, quickly. I liked these people but they consistently told me that I had to be totally honest with myself and everyone else if I wanted to be truly happy. It took me well over a year to accept that I had a problem with alcohol but in that year my life changed dramatically. I finally had a plan for success that was working, and even though I was not anywhere near where I wanted to be, for the first time in my life I had hope.
I promised myself that I was going to get honest about everything regardless of what it cost me. That meant dealing with feelings. It had never occurred to me that negative feelings are a requirement of life. That is, the only way to know how really good I can feel is to accept how truly badly I can feel as well. That came out in spades about three months ago when a dear friend, who was a mere 31 years old, lost her battle with alcohol and died. I felt miserable, and for quite some time too. But I understood that I had to go straight through those negative feelings. I would hurt myself by avoiding the negative feelings. But I had arrived at a place where I realized, gratefully, that everyone feels these things, and the strong and truly happy people readily accept their feelings.
One of the things that separates we humans from the rest of the animal kingdom are these feelings we get. But we must accept those feelings to live as happily as is possible. When we feel mad we have to find a healthy way to express that feeling. When we feel sad it is all right, and a good thing. When sad we do not need to lie to people who ask us how we are doing. Telling someone that we are not doing so well is all right, and actually quite healthy. We have to accept that we are responsible for our feelings and that if someone rejects one of our feelings, that is all right too. We have an absolute right to all of our feelings regardless of what anyone thinks. Feelings are a requirement of the human condition. What we do with those feelings is a matter of personal choice. Today, I choose to deal with them in an honest and forthright manner. I have a great 12-step program and over 13 years of sobriety to thank for that. I also have a fabulous life today and a plan for my next 50 years of life.